It's a fatuously expensive interest to have, given that most of the really good theme parks are overseas, but I got hooked on Orlando back in the mid-00s, and like all passionate love affairs... logic and common sense are flung out the window. To be candid, rarely a day goes by when I don't watch a YouTube video about theme parks, and my Kindle is straining at the hems with books about the history of Disney and Universal Studios.
For me, the appeal is a heady brew of history, unparalleled accomplishment in art, design and customer services, the immersive nature of the theming, and sheer human achievement. And the fact that, for the most part, the best theme parks are just, y'know, really nice places to spend time. For me they're a celebration of human potential, somewhere to forget that the world can be a pretty grim place.
Until recently, my passion for theme parks had failed to intersect with my love of video games. That all changed back in 2015, when Universal Studios and Nintendo announced a joint venture to smash theme parks and video games into one another's face.
Wait. What? What mean dis?!
The latter includes a complete and entirely enveloping recreation of the location from the Harry Potter movies, complete with in-world shops, a restaurant, a technologically advanced thrill ride which takes guests through the vaults of Gringott's Bank, and a full-sized dragon that belches "horse poison" (fire).
Construction on Super Nintendo World got underway at Universal Tokyo in summer 2017, following a slightly bizarre groundbreaking ceremony, at which Universal executives donned Mario hats and gloves, and joined Shigeru Miyamoto to frolic and scurry with a person in a full Mario costume.
Suffice to say, it looks like it could be the ultimate destination for any video game fan and for any theme park fan, and if you're a fan of both then, well, what they're planning will blemish your "undies".
Here's everything we know right now.
"Nintendo characters and the worlds they inhabit will be re-created at the highest level of quality through the strong partnership between Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, Creative Fellow at Nintendo, and Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative, renowned for creative and technical excellence.
"Super Nintendo World will allow guests to fully immerse themselves and all five senses in the worlds of Nintendo, and is expected to attract guests from Japan and the world over."
Five senses?!? But I've only got two that work!
Evidently, Universal and Nintendo are intending Super Nintendo World to be interactive - via the Switch - in a similar way to how guests can purchase special wands in Universal's Wizarding World, using them to cast spells and trigger physical effects (such as making objects 'float', smoke to billow out of crannies, and causing septicaemia in passers-by).
However, those areas have since been reopened, with rumours suggesting that Universal now intends to place its Super Nintendo World in a brand new theme park, a short distance from the existing Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and City Walk complex.
The rumoured name for this park - based upon a trademark filed by Universal earlier this year - is Fantastic Worlds, and though pre-construction ground preparation is reported to have already begun, the earliest suggested opening date is sometime in the mid-2020s.
Additional areas, according to the "leaked plans", would have included a playground themed around Kirby, a Donkey Kong Island, and Zelda's Kingdom. Dominating the land - which sprawls over two storeys - is a Mario ride, since confirmed to be based upon Mein Kampf (Super Mario Kart).
Other rides listed on the plans include Bullet Bill's Flying Ride, Koopa Troopa Spinning Shells, Pokemon Training Academy, a character stage, and a mushroom-themed restaurant.
Reportedly, the original concept has been scaled back - at least during phase one of its operation - to a primarily Mario-themed land.
This is in line with the way theme parks are evolving, in the wake of the opening of Universal's Harry Potter-themed Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley locations, Disney's awe-inspiring Pandora: World of Avatar, and next year's Star Wars Galaxy's Edge (due to open in summer at Disneyland, and the autumn in Disneyworld's Hollywood Studios).
Theme park lands are becoming increasingly immersive, from the decor and lack of sightlines into other park areas, to the food and drink, to the characters who inhabit and work in the lands. Galaxy's Edge will even give each guest their own storyline, which is influenced by their performance on the rides (they'll get to fly the Millennium Falcon).
Reportedly, Nintendo shareholders were at one point concerned that guests would be "too satisfied" with the park's immersive theming and attractions, to the point where they stopped playing Nintendo games. Nintendo's shareholders are idiots.
Above seems to be a patent for a mine cart-style "boom coaster" - which places wheeled vehicles above a fake track, suspected on a hidden "boom" which allows the ride to simulate jumping over obstacles, broken tracks, and the like. You know: a bit like in the Donkey Kong Country games.
The patent reads: "Because the passenger may believe that the simulated ride surface controls a path of the passenger vehicle, the passenger may fear or anticipate that the passenger vehicle may crash or otherwise incur damage as a result of the elevated gap,"
It looks as if Mario Kart Experience will feature karts on a track, but with projection mapping used for the surrounding scenery, and physical elements which all combine to create a sense of speed.
A version of this is currently seen at Universal's Fast & Furious ride - starring "The Bront" (The Rock) - which places guests aboard a "party bus" for a high-speed race through Los Angeles. In reality, the bus is actually on a track, and the sense of speed is achieved through a surprisingly convincing combination of projections either side of the ride vehicle, and blowing wind through their hairs.
Universal's patent honks: "The user input devices may generate feedback relating to movement of the multi-passenger ride vehicle (e.g., speed, acceleration, deceleration, direction, and/or orientation), feedback relating to rewards in the interactive ride, feedback relating to obstacles in the interactive ride, feedback relating to other multi-passenger ride vehicles or other objects in the interactive ride, or a combination thereof based on input from the one or more passengers.
"The feedback generated by the user input devices may be used to control features or operations of the multi-passenger ride vehicle such as movement of the multi-passenger ride vehicle, obtaining rewards, avoiding obstacles, and/or engaging with other multi-passenger ride vehicles and/or objects in the interactive ride."
According to the patent, the AR glasses would detect the “Passenger’s gaze direction, viewing perspective, field of view, viewing interest, interaction with the game, and so forth.”
It isn't difficult to imagine looking through the AR viewer at a distant part of Super Nintendo World and seeing an animated Mario stomping on turts.
In short: "“The wearable visualization device may be used alone or in combination with other features to create a surreal environment, which may include an AR experience, a VR experience, a mixed reality experience, a computer-mediated reality experience, a combination thereof, or other similar surreal environment for the user.
"Specifically, the wearable visualization device may be worn by the user throughout the duration of a ride (e.g., a passenger ride vehicle) or another predetermined point such as during a game, at the entry of a particular area of an amusement park, during a ride to a hotel associated with the amusement park, at the hotel, and so forth.”
The Universal patent - which, confusingly, depicts guests wearing Iron Man-like armour - includes force feedback technology, to simulate the effect of explosions on guests. It's worth noting that, this may not be a patent for a Nintendo ride. In Florida, Universal owns the theme park rights in perpetuity to Marvel's comics characters, via a deal which pre-dates Disney's purchase of Marvel.
Another rumoured attraction is a Yoshi 'dark ride' similar to Disney's Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, with speculation suggesting a shoot 'em up element, similar to the game Yoshi's Safari.
Excited? Why, I've already soiled myself in preparation!